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Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

Three Trips to Natural Wonders

Discover the world's oldest tree, America's biggest cavern, and Florida's largest herd of wild horses on these three treks.

by: Tim Shisler

New Mexico's Carlsbad Cavern (David Muench)
New Mexico's Carlsbad Cavern (David Muench)

America's Largest Cavern
Descend into a 14-acre underground chamber.

The Wonder
New Mexico's Carlsbad Cavern is home to the largest subterranean chamber in the states. It was discovered in 1898 by Jim White, a 16-year-old cowhand (and eventual national park ranger) who used a handmade wire ladder to descend into the black abyss. Named the Big Room, it's the size of 10 and a half football fields and looks like the inside of a cathedral made of candle wax. Stalagmites and stalactites cling tightly to the swooping ceilings and floors, intermixed with leaning columns, rippled draperies, and delicate soda straws all formed as carbonic acid dissolves the cave's limestone.

The Way
Get a ticket at the visitor center ($6) and head into the gaping cavern along a sidewalk-wide 1.25-mile entrance trail. To see the Big Room, link to the Big Room Trail, another 1.25-mile path winding around and through impossible formations. Beat the midday rush by setting off at 8:30 a.m., right when the gates open.

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Apr 03, 2013

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Jul 02, 2012

You would actually be seeing the original horses' "descendents" today, as opposed to the "ancestors" mentioned in the article.

Jun 28, 2012

The world oldest tree is a Norway Spruce in Sweden. It dates back 9550 to right after the last ice age.

Jun 28, 2012

We have Bristlecone Pines in Northern Nevada as well. I know they are 3000+ years old, but!

Aug 12, 2010

Carlsbad Cavern is a wonder to be seen.
Are the bats still there in the summer? We were there in Jan. and did not see any bats.

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I visited this last summer (8/2010) and it was amazing! I would love to go again. I was just in awe over the beauty. We took the guided tour and self guided tour, so fun and learned something new!

Mar 18, 2010

Visited Carlsbad when I lived in New Mexico, what a great place, a must see, amazing!!!!!!!

Now living in Gainesville, FL, I have seen the Cracker horses at Paynes Prairie many times. Last time they were at the vistior center. Saw them the time before and other times on the Bolen Bluff trail.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors and maybe we will cross paths sometime. Be safe.

Dec 20, 2009

We live in Gainesville and have seen this herd. They are quite elusive, but worth the effort to find them. Add to the horses the bison on the prairie, and you never know what you will find on this little natural oddity in central Florida.

Jul 02, 2009

My husband & I are from NC and we visited Carlsbad in 2002 - it was absolutely wonderful and beyond words to explain the natural beauty. Great place to visit and great area to explore go to White Sands monument in Alamogorda when you get done at Carlsbad stunning!!!


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